Starting this season, the NFL will not allow the offense to milk the clock in the fourth quarter by intentionally fouling.
The New England Patriots invented the tactic. The Patriots got a taste of their own medicine during last year’s wildcard playoff with the Tennessee Titans.
Clock starts on the snap this year
In the offseason, the NFL Competition Committee revised rule 4-3-2(e).
The new rule mandates that the clock start on the snap “if the offense commits a foul after the ball is made ready for play, and causes the clock to stop before the snap, during the fourth quarter or overtime.”
As it was originally approved, the rule stated that the defense had to accept the penalty, which did not fix the strategy that exploited the rule in 2019; all instances were 4th down with a short punting margin, which the defense declined the penalty. The rule change was refined to apply to foul situations, not on accepted penalties.
This fixes the loophole from last year. Any offensive foul in the fourth quarter or overtime that stops the clock will keep the clock stopped until the offense snaps the ball.
While people who don’t like the Patriots reveled in the schadenfreude of last year’s playoff game, by rule there can be no clock-milking games this year.